David Allen’s Food For Thought – November 2014

Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 by GTD Staff

To-Do lists: usually “amorphous blobs of un-do-ability”


Most people’s written or mental to-do lists, though created and maintained as a worthy exercise, are merely descriptions of unfinished details and projects in their lives, and are not a really an effective kick-start in getting them done. It’s because another level of decision-making and tracking is still required, even after we’ve captured the area, situation, or project that has our attention. Typical ingredients of such inventories are things like, “Mom,” “Bank,” “Strategy meeting,” or “Phillip.” Accurately identified stuff that has one’s attention, but still lacking in the necessary ingredients for clear and motivated action to close those open loops.

A very bright, very hardworking professional I worked with had wound up overwhelmed and somewhat frozen about many of her large and rather ambiguous projects. This seems to be the rule more than the exception these days, for most people I coach. The problem was quite simply that every time she would remind herself of the project, she would feel like she had to sit down and do a detailed and intelligent project plan about it, in order to know what to do, to deal with it successfully.

Seldom do we ever have the time, energy, or opportunity to do that kind of thinking (project planning) in the heat of battle of day-to-day life. What we ought to be doing is clearly defining the end result of the item (Project), and deciding the next physical visible action required to move toward it (Next Action). This is the simple but profoundly powerful Action to Outcome method.

What amazed my client was how quickly she could come up with the exactly appropriate (and easy to do) next action about the most ambiguous and sophisticated of projects. If we’re not sure what needs to be done, then there’s more information we need, and that’s invariably a phone call, an email to send, a meeting to set, a conversation to have, or a document to review.

Instead of freaking herself out every time she thought about a project, she now had an easy, obvious, and available thing to do to move forward. She was stoked.

After attending a seminar of mine, a senior manager looked back at the to-do list she had brought in with her, saying “that was an amorphous blob of un-do-ability!” No kidding.

One Response to “David Allen’s Food For Thought – November 2014”

  1. kerem parlakgumus says:

    thank you!

Leave a Reply